Thursday, March 15, 2001

Sleight of Hand

Laura Adams (Karin Kallmaker)
Bella Books

Laura Adam's fourth novel, Sleight of Hand is her best work to date and one of the best fantasy stories I've read in awhile. Inspired by the liturgy composed by the medieval Abbess Hildegard von Bingen for the legend of St Ursula and the 11,000 virgins, Sleight of Hand weaves together three incarnations of Ursula's story as they blend across some 16 centuries.

Autumn Bradley and Ursula Colombine, two women who've never met and live half a world apart in the contemporary time, find themselves dreaming of a life in the region "under the constellation of Ursula" after the fall of Rome. During that unsettled time of barbarian raiders while Christianity struggled to reinstate order via its concepts of sin and patriarchy was conquering, co-opting, and converting the peoples of the region, Autumn and Ursula met and fell in love. It was a star-crossed meeting as Ursula, adopted daughter to the lord of Lower Northumberland, was on her way to wed an unknown Jut Lord to seal an alliance between the men.

The story of both pairs of Autumn and Ursula unfolds as the contemporary women struggle to understand what happened in their dream memories and how it impacts their lives. Adam's story of reincarnations includes several other characters from that early medieval cycle coming together in the present as well. Sleight of Hand is the first book of Adams' "Tunnel of Light" Trilogy and ends with an incredible sense of irony as the current Autumn and Ursula finally meet prompting more questions than answers. Your only regret in reading this book will be realizing that, like the rest of us, you'll be waiting for the next installments. (I particularly look forward to finally meeting the contemporary Hilea/Hildegard character.)

Adams is a pen name for Karin Kallmaker who is well known for her consistently charming, contemporarily interesting, and non-formula romance novels. Her works under Adams tend to explore mythic archetypes with lavender tinged reinterpretations of legends and folklore. Read more about Adams and Kallmaker at her home page

-MJ Lowe